Gluck: Philémon & Baucis: Aristeo; Bauci e Filemone

COMPOSERS: Gluck
LABELS: Ambroisie
ALBUM TITLE: Gluck
WORKS: Philémon & Baucis: Aristeo; Bauci e Filemone
PERFORMER: Ann Hallenberg, Magnus Staveland, Ditte Anderson, Marie Lenormand; LesTalens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
CATALOGUE NO: AMB 9995
Here are first recordings of two sections of a forgotten larger work by Gluck that dates from his artistic maturity. In 1769 he was invited to produce a festa teatrale (‘theatrical celebration’) for the wedding of Ferdinand of Parma and Maria Amalia, the Archduchess of Austria. The result was a substantial entertainment of three acts, the last of them being a shortened version of Orfeo itself. But the first two Acts, heard here, also choose subjects celebrating patient love and fidelity.

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In Aristeo, the demi-god accidentally responsible for the death of Euridice makes sacrifices to the gods and is eventually rewarded with the hand of Cydippe, whom he has long loved. In Bauci e Filemone, the faithful couple who welcome disguised Jove into their humble home are rewarded with eternal life. Neither work has the serious dramatic crises of Gluck’s masterpieces, and in both he reused music from other contexts.

Whatever its origins, the music’s quality in both works is high, with a sequence of consistently fine arias interspersed with the purposeful declamation of Gluck’s eloquent recitatives and the odd delectable dance movement or chorus. Neither of these two one-acters deserved the oblivion from which Christoph Rousset has rescued them.

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He and his musicians provide exciting music-making throughout, with the five soloists who divide the roles between them all excellent. Ann Hallenberg sings ‘Cessate, fuggite’, the choicest aria in Aristeo, immaculately, while as Bauci Ditte Andersen reaches notes well beyond the regular limits of the soprano range. George Hall